The Arab International Women’s Forum hosts World Bank Group Regional Director of Mashreq Region in Beirut

The Arab International Women’s Forum high-level reception in Lebanon examined critical economic reform programmes announced at the recent CEDRE Conference held in Paris with a focus on enhancing economic growth and opportunities in Lebanon

 The Arab International Women’s Forum (AIWF) was honoured to host a Special Reception in honour of Mr Saroj Kumar Jha, the Regional Director of the Mashreq Department (Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, Jordan and Iran), World Bank Group, on Tuesday 10 July 2018 in Beirut, Lebanon.

AIWF was proud to welcome senior members, partners, guests and high-level Lebanese and MENA business leaders and civil society to the Reception, during which Mr Jha delivered a special address as the evening’s Guest of Honour Keynote Speaker, sharing timely and valuable insight into the World Bank’s much-needed initiatives and projects to revitalise Lebanon’s infrastructure and development. The focus of the evening’s programme was on enhancing economic growth and opportunities for young people in Lebanon, highlighting the World Bank’s lead role in implementing critical economic reform and investment programmes as announced at the Cedar (CEDRE) Conference for international donors and investors supporting Lebanon’s economy, held in Paris on April 6, 2018.

At the CEDRE Conference, 50 countries and organisations including the World Bank and the IMF convened and pledged over $11 billion to an investment programme to reform the Lebanese economy, overhaul infrastructure and boost economic growth. This figure includes over $4 billion in loans from the World Bank and $1.1 billion from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and signals the start of a new drive to modernize the Lebanese economy and enhance the potential of the private sector. Crucially, this investment is expected to provide tens of thousands of job opportunities for Lebanese youth, with investments supporting over 250 projects in sectors including transport, water and irrigation, sewage, electricity, communications and tourism.

“Since the turn of the century, MENA region has made significant gains in women’s access to education and health. But their access to economic opportunities remains a persistent challenge,” Saroj Kumar Jha, World Bank Regional Director for the Mashreq, said in his keynote statement. “Approximately four out of five working-age females in MENA are out of the labor force. The average of working women stands at 22 percent, which substantially lower than the global average of 46 percent.”

“The World Bank is committed to address this imbalance through clear objectives at the onset of projects that ensure the creation of economic opportunities for women,” he added.

Since its inception in 2001, AIWF has received the World Bank’s continued and much valued support and cooperation in its mission to support a greater role for women in the Arab region. Haifa Fahoum Al Kaylani, Founder & Chairman of AIWF, said: “AIWF is proud to have had this very special opportunity to welcome Lebanese leaders in business, in public life and from civil society to the AIWF Special Reception held in honour of the World Bank’s Regional Director for the Mashreq in Beirut. The Reception brought into focus the key initiatives the World Bank is undertaking in Lebanon to foster growth, development, and job creation for all. Importantly, the focus of the evening was on how economic reform measures announced at CEDRE in April 2018 can be leveraged to create progress and opportunities for women and young people, who should not only be given a voice to participate fully in the development of a new economic future for Lebanon but must be the prime beneficiaries of enhanced economic and social prosperity and the unprecedented opportunities that result from much-needed reform and investment initiatives.”

Guests in attendance at the AIWF Special Reception in Beirut represented a diverse range of private sector, governmental and non-profit organisations including the UN Global Compact Network Lebanon; Union of Arab Chambers; Institute for Human Rights of the Beirut Bar Association; International Labour Organization ; Embassy of the United Kingdom in Lebanon; US Embassy in Beirut; National Commission for Lebanese Women; Institute for Women’s Studies in the Arab World (IWSAW); American University of Beirut; Ministry of Justice Lebanon; Arab-Irish Chamber of Commerce; LiBank (Levant Investment Bank); Lebanese Central Bank; Arab Bank; Credit Libanais; Audi Bank; AXA Middle East; Arab Thought Foundation; BBC; Al Arabiya News Channel; Memac Ogilvy; Olayan School of Business, AUB; and the University of Balamand.

The Special Reception was hosted at and with the valued partnership of the Fattal Group in Beirut, Lebanon, with the valued support of AIWF Global Partner PwC


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